An ‘Open invite’ for greenkeeper Natasha

Every year, the R&A invites a greenkeeper from those courses on the Open Championship rota to experience working at the current Open venue. This year, the opportunity came my way and I grabbed it with both hands. I’ll admit, it was a little daunting for me to go to Northern Ireland and stay with six strangers. However, I looked forward to this new experience. I knew that I would not only be representing St Andrews Links and the Eden Greenkeeping Team but also women in the industry.

Seven of us stayed in one house and I made friends for life with Rob from Royal Birkdale, Sean from Turnberry, Joe from Royal Troon, Craig from Muirfield, Chris from Hoylake and Darren from Carnoustie.

We arrived at Portrush a week early where we got to help the Portrush team complete final touches before The Open officially teed off. Every single one of them was so welcoming and friendly. Graeme Beatt, Course Manager has a truly amazing squad:

The course itself is stunning. The only minus was the weather. It took about a week to see the sun in Northern Ireland but eventually it came through!

During the week of The Open I was hand cutting greens. We started at 4:00 until 8:00 and back to work at about 19:30 to 21:30. A few hours of sleep and we did it all over again. Even the tiredness and lack of sleep didn’t bring the mood down. On our way to work and back we were laughing and enjoying some old tunes on our journey to the course and appreciating the change of scenery.

Above, Richard Windows from the R&A agronomy team was checking the speed of the green to see if it needed cut for a third time that morning. The tunnel is designed to stop the weather influencing the ball roll and give a more accurate reading. Unfortunately for my feet, on this occasion, it did need a third cut…

One of the memorable stories during the experience was hand cutting in the dark. All the hand cutters that had finished their greens stayed back to mark the cutting line edge with their feet so the last few greens could be finished. Just one example of the team spirit that was a running theme throughout the two weeks I was there.

I really enjoyed working at The Open for many reasons but especially for plying my trade with new people I now call friends.

Words by Natasha Repinskaja, Greenkeeper – Eden, Strathtyrum and Balgove Team

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